In an extraordinary rebuke from US President Donald Trump, the 10 living former defense secretaries on Sunday warned against any move to involve the military in prosecuting allegations of electoral fraud, arguing it would drag the country into a “Dangerous, illegal and unconstitutional territory”. .
The 10 men, Democrats and Republicans, signed an opinion piece published in The Washington Post newspaper that implicitly questioned Trump’s willingness to uphold his constitutional duty to peacefully relinquish power on January 20.
After the November 3 election and subsequent recounts in some states, along with unsuccessful court challenges, the outcome is clear, they wrote, without specifying Trump in the article.
“The time to question the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the votes of the electoral college, as prescribed in the Constitution and the statute, has arrived, ”they wrote.
Former Pentagon chiefs warned against using the military in any effort to change the outcome.
“Efforts to involve the US armed forces in the resolution of electoral disputes would lead us into dangerous, illegal and unconstitutional territory,” they wrote. “Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be responsible, including potentially liable to criminal sanctions, for the serious consequences of their actions on our republic.”
A number of senior officers, including General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have publicly stated in recent weeks that the military has no role in determining the outcome of the US election and that their loyalty is to the constitution, not to an individual leader or political party.
The 10 former Pentagon leaders also warned in their Post article about the dangers of preventing a full and smooth transition to the Department of Defense before inauguration day as part of a transfer to power in the United States. President-elect Joe Biden. Biden complained about efforts by Trump-appointed Pentagon officials to impede the transition.
Without citing a specific example, former defense secretaries wrote that transfers of power “often occur at times of international uncertainty over US national security policy and posture,” adding, “They may be a time when the nation is vulnerable to the actions of adversaries who seek to take advantage of the situation.
Tensions with Iran represent such a moment. Sunday marked one year since the American assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general; Iran has pledged to avenge the murder, and U.S. officials have said in recent days that they are on heightened alert for a possible Iranian attack on U.S. forces or interests in the Middle East.
In another sign of US-Iran tension, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced in the evening that he had changed his mind about sending the Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz , at home from the Middle East and that he would keep the ship instead. in service. Miller announced last week that he was sending the Nimitz home, a move senior officers objected to.
Rolling over, Miller cited “recent threats by Iranian leaders against President Trump and other US government officials.” He did not elaborate and the Pentagon did not answer questions.
The opinion piece in the Post was signed by Dick Cheney, William Perry, Donald Rumsfeld, William Cohen, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, Ash Carter, James Mattis and Mark Esper. Mattis was Trump’s first defense secretary; he resigned in 2018 and was replaced by Esper, who was sacked just days after the November 3 election.
The Post reported that the idea of writing the op-ed began with a conversation between Cheney and Eric Edelman, a retired ambassador and former senior Pentagon official, about how Trump might seek to use the army in the coming days.